Skip to Content

Chronic Post Traumatic Headache


A chronic post-traumatic headache (CPTH) develops days to weeks after a head injury and lasts longer than 3 months. A CPTH can also be a symptom of a more serious condition called post-concussion syndrome (PCS). PCS is a group of symptoms that affect your nerves, thinking, and behavior.


Call 911 or have someone else call for any of the following:

  • You cannot be woken.
  • You have a seizure.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have a sudden headache that seems different or much worse than your usual headaches.
  • You have sudden changes in your vision.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have headaches more often, or your pain is more severe.
  • You have pain that starts when you strain or change your position.
  • You have headaches that wake you during the night.
  • You have pain that is not helped with pain medicines.
  • You always have pain on the same side of your head.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


Headache pain is easier to control if you take pain medicine as soon as you start to feel pain. You will need to limit pain medicines to prevent a condition called rebound headaches. Your healthcare provider will tell you when and how often to take pain medicine. You may need any of the following:

  • Prescription pain medicines may be given to control or prevent headache pain. Your healthcare provider will tell you which medicines may work for you.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain. Acetaminophen is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • Medicine may be given to control nausea or vomiting.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Do not eat foods that trigger your headaches.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise helps decrease stress and headaches. Ask about the best exercise plan for you.
  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol can trigger a headache. It can also prevent medicines from being able to stop your headache.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can trigger a headache and also cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Drink liquids as directed. You may need to drink more liquid to prevent dehydration. Dehydration can cause a headache. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Set a regular sleep schedule. A lack of sleep can trigger headaches or make them worse. Go to bed and wake up at the same times each day. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are having trouble sleeping.
  • Keep a headache record. Include when they start and stop and what made them better. Describe your symptoms, such as how the pain feels, where it is, and how bad it is. Record anything you ate or drank for the past 24 hours before your headache. Bring this to follow-up visits.
  • Apply heat or ice as directed. Heat and ice help decrease headache pain, and heat can also relieve muscle spasms. Cover the heat or ice pack with a towel before you place it on your skin. Apply heat on the area for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours for as many days as directed. Apply ice for 15 to 20 every hour or as directed. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you alternate heat and ice.

For support and more information:

  • Brain Injury Association
    1608 Spring Hill Road
    Vienna , VA 22182
    Phone: 1- 703 - 761-0750
    Phone: 1- 800 - 444-6443
    Web Address:

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Bring your headache record with you when you see your healthcare provider. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.